Tuition Increases Inevitable - SGA Proposes Solution
Kyle Florence

After the recent introduction of Governor Scott Walker’s bi-annual budget, students across the University of Wisconsin system have been anxiously waiting to see what kind of tuition increases they can expect in the coming academic year.

“As far as tuition increases go, we really don’t know what we’re going to be looking at for next year,” said Interim Provost Greg Summers. “The governor’s budget address just took place on February 20th, and in that budget address, he requested that the legislature give the UW system flexibility in establishing its tuition. We don’t know whether or not that will be approved, or if the legislature will continue their practice of putting tuition caps in place.”

Tuition has been raised by 5.5 percent for all UW students in the last two years. If it continues to increase at this rate, current tuition rates will double within the next 13 years. To put this in perspective, this means that in the year 2025, UW-Madison’s tuition rate could be well over $20,000.

Summers attributes these increases to a lack of state funding.

“Tuition increases have been necessary not just in the last year or two but over the last decade because of the decline in state funding of higher education,” Summers said. “Yes, we get revenue from federal sources, from grants, from private philanthropy, but the major source is state funding and tuition, so if state funding goes down, tuition goes up.”

Seth Hoffmeister, President of UW-Stevens Point’s Student Government Association, shares a similar opinion as Summers, rallying that tuition protection is a “huge issue of accessibility and affordability.”

“The cost of higher education has gone up a tremendous amount. As the state invests less in higher education, we as students are forced to pay the difference. When you price students out of an education and then send them into a dismal job market, how can we expect students to come to school and then stay in school?” Hoffmeister said.

Ben Hamele, a senior communication major, also believes that higher tuition rates ultimately hurt students in the long run, even after graduation.

“I honestly think it is ridiculous to raise tuition on in-state students. We already pay way too much as it is, and increasing tuition only makes it that much harder to pay off loans once we graduate from the university,” Hamele said. “In the end they should make it more affordable for the people that want to go to college, not harder.”

Currently, the average Wisconsin student graduates with $26,238 in debt. 67 percent graduate with debt of some sort. Wisconsin ranks 10th in the nation for population of students graduating in debt.

In opposition to these percentages, the Student Government Association is currently promoting a legislatively mandated tuition cap to assure access and affordability to the UW-system.

“We’re advocating for a 3-4% tuition cap, so we’re allowing tuition to go up, but simply at a more manageable rate,” Hoffmeister said. “It’s our job as student government to be your voice in the capitol. We firmly believe that college should be affordable, and we want to make sure that UW-Stevens Point is still accessible to anyone who wants to attend here.”

Summers also believes that the best interests of students should be a top priority.

“Students should probably expect to see some modest increases in the future, but we also have to be sensitive as to not overprice the cost of a college degree. We can’t ever raise tuition so far that the jobs that students get can’t pay for the tuition that students need to pay for a college degree, as that will be a fundamentally unsustainable situation,” said Summers.